Choose Your Own Adventure

Do you remember the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, or the various other series of a similar sort (such as Pick Your Path, Endless Quest, etc.)? As I wrestled with the fact that I like to begin my classes where my students are and work step by step from there, and yet my students in classes like my one semester course on the Bible are starting in all sorts of different places, it struck me that a “Choose Your Own Adventure” textbook would be just the solution to this problem. I spent quite a bit of time developing one, which can be found online at (or via the shortcut link I only cover the introductory component of the course, since once one gets beyond that the need for individually-tailored presentations is somewhat reduced. I’d be delighted if other professors and interested individuals were to get some benefit from it, and would welcome input on its usefulness and suggestions for improvements.

On a related note, there is an interesting article in the August 27th 2007 issue of Time magazine by John Cloud, entitled “Are We Failing Our Geniuses?”, about the ways in which education in the United States largely ignores the specific needs of the brightest students. There seems to be significant discomfort in the US with people being particularly adept at anything intellectual. Just think about it: if one’s child is a budding pro baseball player from an early age, one can comfortably proclaim it from the rooftops, but if the child is a math whiz instead, we mutter something apologetic.

This makes me realize just how insightful the story by Kurt Vonnegut, “Harrison Bergeron”, of which I admit I’ve only seen the movie, really was. I’ve mentioned the story once before on this blog. It envisages a future United States that carries our current emphasis to the extreme. In our society that in areas of sports, economics and much else endorses competitiveness, we have begun to emphasize uniformity in the academic achievements of our students. In the future imagined in this story, the government is responsible for making everyone “equal”. The story focuses on the character Harrison Bergeron, who is smart and just can’t live up to society’s expectations of mediocrity. I highly recommend the movie!

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